Thursday, 29 November 2012

Coiney Reason Lost in the Ozarks

Out in the backwoods of Missouri in the Ozark Mountains lives an old man who apparently believes fervently in coin elves and also seems to imagine that he can read my mind. So now, we learn from him that ‘Barford calls on Coin Collectors to Study and Publish' about an earlier post of mine (to which he is unwilling to provide his readers with a link).* What I actually said is here.

It can be seen that I was questioning the coiney mantra about the "research" which the majority of collectors do on the coins they accumulate. Sayles' name-dropping comments on a single example of a single book hardly advances the discussion on that more general point. [I will come back to the point made in Sayles' post about the relationship between the two first volumes on "Turkoman coins" and the Theselius, Spengler/Sayles and Tom Cobley collections later; matters are by no means as simple as he tries to make out].  

As I have said many times before (so I cannot see why this might now "seem like a dramatic change of tack"), I would like to see all collections documented and that documentation disseminated in the interests of transparency and facilitating following the collecting history of individual items as they move through ephemeral collections. If coin collectors and artefact hunters are indeed engaged in any kind of useful research, then absolutely, I am all for them publishing it and presenting it for discussion and scrutiny. No question about that.

What however is the issue is the ethics of this kind of research. Human medical experiments too "can  bear intellectual fruits and enrich the understanding of other disciplines", no question about that either. There is however a great difference between using the results of experiments conducted on unharmed, voluntary subjects, and the use of data from experiments done in the Second World War in concentration camps. Nazi doctors gathered data which are potentially useful in several fields of science, but they will never be used as such because medical ethics will not allow their use. An extreme example, certainly - but the point is the fact that there are cases where ethical issues override the value of the data. You could say the same about any field of science where the data are gained from cruel or distressing experiments, or are stolen from somewhere else. The ethical issues rule out their use in a responsible discipline. Why is that not the case with ancient dugup artefacts each of which represents the unmitigated destruction of another portion of the finite and fragile archaeological record? There is responsible and ethical way to collect coins and artefacts to study, and an unreflexive approach which asks no questions about where the basic source material is coming from.

What I do want to see is collections made only of demonstrably responsibly (and licitly) obtained artefacts and properly documented. Now, personally, I think I express that quite clearly, but it seems some people have difficulty attaching meaning to the words.

*Odd, isn't it, that now three ACCG blogs, Peter Tompa, Dave Welsh and now Wayne Sayles (despite an earlier assurance) have a series of posts about "Barford" rather than ancient coin collecting. Have these people really nothing else to write about? Is the intellectual landscape of ancient coin studies currently so barren?


Cultural Property Observer said...

You must not actually read my blog too closely though you have referred to it from time to time. My blog does not focus on ancient coin collecting itself. Rather, as stated on the masthead, it is "A Web Log Championing the Longstanding Interests of Collectors in the Preservation, Study, Display and Enjoyment of Cultural Artifacts Against an 'Archaeology Over All' Perspective." Moreover, I'm not sure why you are going back to 2009 for your link to my blog. Why not be more current? For example, see

Paul Barford said...

Well, first of all this blog post is about how one ACCG board member totally mises the point of what I was saying, and lo and behold it is followed by a comment by his sidekick missing the point of what I was saying but focussing on the footnote. What is the matter with these people?

Here I am talking about the "broader intellectual landscape" within which they function and they persist in looking only at the nettles in the corner.

Paul Barford said...

Secondly, the blog mistitled "Cultural Property Observer" is nothing of the kind. It is self-evidently part of the paid lobbying effort on behalf of coin dealers' associations. Hence the label "Lobboblogger".

Over eighty percent of the posts are snide remarks related either to the coin trade, or sniping at critics of the no-questions-asked coin trade, and xenophobic sniping at any country with an MOU with the US which mentions coins (plus Egypt).

But you are right I long ago stopped reading that "CPO" stuff with much attention. It seems to me an irrelevance, focussed on serving the perceived interests of a loud minority in another minority.

It is mostly these days just spiteful sniping which makes no real point, raises no real issues and makes little sense to anyone, except riled-up coiney naysayers. And I think you will find that there are considerably fewer of those than when you started, even in the US. I think even they are beginning to see through the ACCG facade.

Paul Barford said...

Yes, I used that "humour" link in the first draft of this post, but I decided not to use what I wrote ... Don't worry, I'll use it later in an appropriate context, we'll see how much of a "sense of humour" Wayne Sayles has then.

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